Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2018 Issue

What to Do About a "Raging Bigot" of a Bookseller?

37295e14-d79d-4d41-a7a9-509083e9d1e9

Bigotry on display.

It wasn't the best of publicity for the antiquarian book trade. Actually, it wasn't particularly a book trade issue. Every type of business has its good and its bad. Still, a story about a bookseller in "The Ethicist's" column of the New York Times Magazine under the heading "Should I Keep Working for a Raging Bigot?" is not the kind of publicity you like to see.

 

The unnamed inquirer describes himself as "a graduate student in a program designed to prepare you for a career working with rare books and manuscripts." He works for an "antiquarian bookseller." This is good. We need more people pursuing the time-honored trade. He then pays his boss a compliment, saying, "It is just the two of us, and he pays me very well, allows me to work the hours I want, gives me a good deal of responsibility and is willing to give me in-depth training." All's well so far, but then, "He is, however, racist, homophobic, transphobic, bigoted and sexist." These attributes are definitely not so nice.

 

The writer's dilemma is whether to quit working for the man or is it acceptable since he is working for the experience and the money and would never hold such views himself. The Times' Ethicist obviously finds this situation challenging, at first seeming to support that he take a firmer stand about not discussing politics, but then noting he might get fired. If so, he could then consult an employment lawyer, or if he can't afford one, check with a clinic at a local law school (presuming there is one). This isn't a very satisfying answer for what is probably a graduate student struggling to scrape by day to day.

 

Ultimately, the Ethicist favors expressing his dissent more plainly so long as it is not of such magnitude as to jeopardize his employment. After all, the student is not responsible for the bookseller's behavior, and "leaving your job in protest would open up a spot — for another white man." The Ethicist's final suggestion is, at the end of his employment, to confront his boss "more forthrightly."

 

I will not render an opinion on this dilemma. We have all faced it, if not with bosses then with friends, family, neighbors, and such that express such obnoxious opinions. Is it better to confront, knowing the odds of success in changing that person's mind are about as great as finding an undiscovered Gutenberg Bible at a yard sale, or just let it slide? Since the New York Times is not paying me to offer ethical judgments, I'll stay out of it. But, here is what surprises me about this exchange. Are there really antiquarian booksellers who think like this?

 

The answer to the above question is, of course, yes. There are people like this in every field. Still, it is more disheartening and surprising to hear about them in the book trade. After all, book collecting doesn't generally attract illiterate, uneducated people, the kind you would most likely expect to hold racist and bigoted views. Book buyers are mostly the enlightened, book burners the ignorant.

 

What is such a person doing in our trade? It is doubtful that a person with such views otherwise conceals them, expressing them to no one other than his powerless assistant. Customers, who, as we know, are always right, could confront such comments if they are expressed. They hold the upper hand. Most importantly, fellow booksellers, who likely interact with this individual in trade organizations, at book shows, or through transactions, should make their views clear. Perhaps, trade groups, whose codes of ethics have naturally been focused on ethical treatment of customers, should address these broader concerns as well. All of us associated with books, as buyers, sellers, researchers, writers, serious readers, should make it clear that this is not who we are. We aren't. Peer pressure is more likely to have an impact than is that coming from a powerless underling.

 

Here is a link to The Ethicist's column: www.nytimes.com/2017/11/29/magazine/should-i-keep-working-for-a-raging-bigot.html.


Posted On: 2018-01-03 01:09
User Name: Bkwoman

I have been in the book business for more than 25 years and have met a few bigots and LGBT-haters, et al. I'm always stunned that this is so. I have partners in my book business now who are bigots and generally disapprove of anyone who is not white, the other partners are just like me, they approve of good, intelligent people, even if they are green martians who worship earthworms and cross-dress. Who cares anyway? Drives me nuts how much time those people waste hating....


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>September 25, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Rowling (J.K.) <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,</i> FIRST EDITION, first issue, 8vo, 1997. £15,000 to £20,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Bible, Italian.- Malermi Bible, woodcut illustrations, folio, Lazaro de Soardi & Bernardino Benali, Venice,1517. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Germany.- Homann (Johann Baptist). <i>Atlas von Deutschland,</i> engraved half title, hand coloured, 87 double page engraved maps, [folio, Erben, Nuremberg, 1753]. £8,000 to £10,000
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>September 25, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> [Mirk (John)].- <i>Liber festivalis et Quatuor sermons</i> [bound with], [Le Roy (Pierre)] <i>A Pleasant Satyre or Poesie,</i> first edition in English, Widdow Orwin for Thomas Man, 1595, 8vo. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Antoninus Florentinus (Saint Archbishop of Florence). <i>Confessionale: Defecerunt…,</i> 8vo, Pietro Quarengi, Venice, 15 February 1499. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Jesuit Letters.- [Froes (Father Luigi) & et al.)] Avvisi del Giapone de gli anni 1582, 1583, 1584…, 1586 [bound with] Avvisi della Cina et Giapone…, FIRST EDITIONS, Rome. £1,000 to £1,500
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>September 25, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Plutarch & Probus (Aemilius). <i>Plutarchi Cheronei et Aemilii Probi Illustrium,</i> folio, Nicolas de Pratis for Jean-Petit, Paris, 1521. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Bible.- English. <i>The Byble in Englyshe of the Largest and Greatest volume,</i> elaborate woodcut border, text vignettes, folio, 1541. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Fore-edge Painting.- Lord George Byron, The Giaour, a Fragment of a Turkish Tale, bound with 10 other titles, 4 plates marked 'Proof.', 1813. £800 to £1,200
    <center><b>Chiswick Auctions<br>Books & Works on Paper<br>September 25, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Manson (John). Twelve by Sixteen Papers of John Mason, a collection of 50 sheets of paper, some watermarked, 12 x 16”, c.1978. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Fleming (Ian). <i>Dr. No,</i> FIRST EDITION, original boards, dust-jacket, 8vo, 1958. £700 to £900
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Sep. 25:</b> Eliot (T.S.) <i>Four Quartets,</i> NUMBER 121 of 290 COPIES, signed by author, 1960. £400 to £600

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions